The Clock and the Search Warrant

“Most were corrupted by the lure of the underworld. They thought they could check their morality at the door – go out and lie, cheat, and steal – then come back and retrieve it. But you can’t.”  (Agent Martin Pera, Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1948 to 1963), from “The Strength of the Wolf” by Douglas Valentine.

We need to revise a part of our search warrant rules in Texas. I consider this an issue in criminal justice reform that the legislature needs to address.

A set of rules of inference must be internally consistent.  If they are not, then they can lead to contradictory results or arguments that are not valid arguments.

All search warrants must have a time limit.  Particularly in the case of warrants for drugs or controlled substances.  People do drugs and/or they sell them.  They might be all gone by the time you get there. The target of a warrant might get a tip of an impending raid and move the evidence the warrant seeks to find to another location.  As well, someone might pick up and move for an entirely different reason.  Officers could come crashing in the door of the wrong person, someone entirely innocent of any misconduct and not in possession of any contraband.  Or they might find themselves walking into an empty, vacated residence.  In either scenario, the neighbors would certainly be alarmed and frightened. It is commonly thought that the lifespan of a search warrant in Texas is three (3) days.  Lets take that  assumption and see if we can derive a contradiction to show that the proposition is false.

Article 18.06, of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states very clearly that:
…a search warrant must be executed within three days from the time of its issuance.

Article 18.07 clarifies that the period allowed for the execution of a typical search warrant is “exclusive of the day of its issuance and of the day of its execution” and is “three whole days.”

Excluding the day or date of issue makes some sense in light of the fact that the warrant is good for “three whole days.”
Although the magistrate is ordered to endorse the date and hour the warrant is issued, when does the clock actually start running if the day the warrant is issued does not count?
The code offers little insight on this question.

It is the “exclusive of the day of execution” part that makes the rules fall apart. If you include the day of execution then the three day rule might make more sense… but the day of execution is said to be excluded.  Stating a warrant has to be executed withing three days and then not counting the day the door actually gets kicked in is absurd.
Because in reality when a magistrate issues a warrant that rule means that the police actually have four (4) days to execute it.  And that obviously contradicts the rule that a warrant must be executed in three days.